Final Cut Pro

Go Big or Go Bust: Six Top Tools for Creative Work in the Digital Age

This blog was started as a way of keeping you, dear reader, up to date on my efforts to get The Louise Log  out to a wider audience.  (The urgency to reach more viewers is financial - this show needs to become self-sustaining in order to continue.)  

I thank you for giving me a wide berth as I’ve gone down meandering paths into my past life, trying to see if there’s some obvious pattern at work here and, if so, how I might be able to break it.

The good news is that, in spite of me and my personality still at the helm, we have a very exciting plan in the works which I’ll be able to say more about in the next week or so.

Until then, here’s some of what I’ve learned from making this show.  

I used to routinely face a wall of anxiety too tall to see over and too wide to get around.  The only possible way to deal with this is, obviously, was avoidance, otherwise known as procrastination.  As you may have read, in what is by any standards an epic mastery of this approach to life, I managed to stretch out the rewrite of the script for my ‘second feature’ for SEVENTEEN YEARS.  Making The Louise Log  taught me a number of tools to deal with this demon.  

Tool #1 is limitations.  Having ‘wasted’ so many years on one miserable script, I was like an over-primed pump ready to explode.   It helped that I was fifty-five years old and well aware that people start dying at that age.  So before mine got me, I started to set my own deadlines.  Mr. Green had been writing a blog once a month for years.  I decided that I’d make one video a month.  

Tool #2 is a variation on Tool #1: Start where you are with what you have.

In film, I’d worked with Camera Operators and Directors of Photography.  I knew nothing about shooting and less about video.  Furthermore, in 2007, no self-respecting filmmaker was shooting video with a camcorder and putting it up on YouTube.  Fortunately, as previously outlined, I had the gift of desperation.  There was the family camcorder which, guess what?  Like cell phone cameras, camcorders are point and shoot.  A two year old could press the two buttons and probably get something worth looking at.  

I’d worked as a film editor and had always been intimidated by video editing.  Apple’s imovie is so simple, two year olds can now edit the video they’ve shot.  I went to the Apple Store’s One-to-One sessions and learned imovie until I broke it with overly complicated sound tracks.  Then I learned Final Cut Pro.  

Which brings me to Tool #3: Baby Steps

If the first episode had been with more than one actor, I probably would have broken out in hives and cancelled the shoot for not being able to breathe.  

But by the fourth episode I was working with two actors.  By the fifth episode,  there were four actors (two of them children), props, several shots crossing the very busy Seventh Avenue and a rented location (the local public school),  

By episode forty-three we had four SAG actors in their underwear, a fifth (fully clothed) SAG actor 900 miles away on Skype and a crew of five.

Tool #4: Practice Makes Perfect.  Well, yes and no.

On the one hand, working constantly, my craft exploded.  I learned more making The Louise Log than in making all my other films combined.

But a great thing about digital technology is that you don’t have to get it right the first time.  Or even the seventeenth.  For Season One, we didn’t have a professional sound mixer on set. The sound for the first seventeen episodes was whatever the camcorder picked up.  In the episode in the Principle’s Office (12), the air conditioning noise was so invasive, it ruined an otherwise strong episode.  Yes we had to lose thousands of views, but we took down the original uploads of almost all the sub-par audio, dubbed them and re-uploaded a lot of Season One.

Tool #5: Collaborate and Ask For Help

Digital technology makes it possible for one person to do almost every job.  Please don’t ask how I know this.  Unfortunately, the chances of a one-person project reaching a wide audience are greatly diminished.  If only for the (extremely important) fact that the marketing and promotion will be easier if a lot of people are involved and invested, work with a group.  

Tool #6: Story Trumps All

Make sure the script is strong or make sure you have the leeway to salvage it in the editing if it isn’t.  A voice-over saved us more times than I can count.  

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Go Big or Go Bust: Day 185 (on a web series highlights reel, Final Cut Pro, procrastination and Mr. Green)

I'm not the most hi-tech person who ever walked the planet and the next job on the agenda is to build the cut of the 'highlights reel' in the most high-quality files possible.  I'll say it right out that this would be a a daunting job for anybody: I learned to cut video under deadline pressure on three different softwares, two of which are no longer available.  Combine that with my marginal impulse control and you have a mess spread over ten+ hard drives. 

So naturally, I've procrastinated to the limit with plugging in the old Lacies, Western Digitals and G-Drives Here's a shot of me caught in the act with my last delaying tactic: the wall calendar.  The three month plan.  Until the darn highlights reel is ready, there is no three month plan.  Nuff said. 

Or so I thought.  My roving photographer, Mr. Green, offered to give me a deadline.  When I practically bit his head off, he apologized: "I'm sorry I said anything."  I don't think he is sorry.  I think he just knows which side his bread is buttered on. 

Go Big or Go Bust: Day 59 (What is this, "Moses Crossing the Desert"?)

4.6.08  Drained beyond drained last night after the shoot.  Wrung OUT.  So relieved that we'd made it through and gotten all the shots but couldn't give myself the pleasure of feeling satisfied and relaxed.  To bed at ten and couldn't sleep.  Plagued by thought that didn't get a good enough reaction shot when Louise and the kids walk in and find Phineas on the floor.  X suggested that I might want to direct the kids' EYES, tell them where to LOOK.  Felt like such an amateur, wanted to shout: "Do you have any idea how many things I'm trying to think about??" 

4.8.08  Why do I give these people power over me?  People who are not as smart or as deep as I am--  why do I even care about what they think??

4.10.08  Episode #4 had such good clear conflict.  We need that in every episode- strong conflict which  makes clear what Louise wants.  What does she want in this one? 

4.13.08  Gotta start practicing on Final Cut Pro, organize auditions for #8, write the end of #7.  Feeling sweaty and headachey.  Who has the energy for yoga?  J and her friend A came over and stayed too long.  Totally drained.  I don't know how to say: "Okay, I'm so glad you came but now I have to get back to work." 

4.15.08   Feels like #4 was uploaded YEARS ago.  Maybe #5 is so many headaches cause it's varied, outside to inside, and back out again.  Three new characters.  It's practically a road movie.  Or "Moses Crosses the *Desert*"  (AKA Seventh Avenue)

4.16.08   Got mixed up and deleted whole bunch of files which seemed to be duplicated on  internal hard drive.  Wiped them off the external hard drive and realized that I'd deleted them - from everywhere... all the camera files for the first four episodes.  Wanted to scream (and shoot myself).  Also did the full yoga thing yesterday for the first time in at least ten days and now legs feel like they're separating from torso. 

4.17.08   Does Louise come off as not really loving her kids? 

4.19.08   CRAZY about Matt Keating's song "Here and Then You're Gone".  Very excited by Chris Cook's response to the finished episode- and, there was a second comment!  Woo-ee!